The copy of The Rising Moon, a 4½ x 7½in (11.5 x 19cm) etching from c.1857, stated on the verso: Madam, I have this day forwarded to you by my Father’s desire two proofs of his new etching ‘The Bellman’ printed by myself at our private press. When removed from the roller I should not advise rolling it backwards but leaving it to flatten either in a large book or a portfolio for several days before framing.
The inscription, which had become faded but was still legible, is dated 21 July 1879, which aligns with the work referred to: The Bellman was a print from 1879 showing a bellringer walking through a quiet village as the moon rises. Copies today tend to fetch between £1000-3000 at auction.
In Cheltenham, The Rising Moon was offered together on March 17 with another Samuel Palmer etching, The Early Ploughman. They were both good impressions, although both mounts were stained and one of the prints had water damage to two corners.
Estimated at £2000-3000, they sold at £2800 – a decent price considering individual copies of The Rising Moon tend to make around £500 and prices of The Early Ploughman ranges from around £1000-2000 at auction.
…and the forger’s version
Meanwhile, a ‘Samuel Palmer’ by the art forger Tom Keating (1917-84) emerged at a recent Bury St Edmunds auction.
Keating’s notoriety may now be fading but he remains one of the most prolific English art forgers: he claimed to have faked more than 2000 paintings by over 100 different artists. When in 1970 a group of 13 ‘Samuel Palmer’ Shoreham watercolours were exposed as fakes, he openly confessed to having done them.
Even in his lifetime, Keating’s work had become collectable – Christie’s held sales of his work – and a market for his known forgeries remains.
A Palmer lookalike showing sheep in a Kent landscape, ‘signed’ lower right, formed part of the sale titled A little bit of Keating held by Vost’s in Newmarket in December 1998. It is stamped to the verso accordingly.
It reappeared at Lacy Scott & Knight (20% buyer’s premium) on March 21, catalogued as by Keating and with an estimate of just £40-60. It sold at £1500.